First, a word from our sponsors. Ever wonder what a reader for a contest or agency thinks when he reads your screenplay? Check out my new e-book published on Amazon: Rantings and Ravings of a Screenplay Reader, including my series of essays, What I Learned Reading for Contests This Year, and my film reviews of 2013. Only $2.99. http://ow.ly/xN31r
and check out my Script Consultation Services: http://ow.ly/HPxKE
There is much to like in writer/director Noah Baumbach’s musing on growing older, though not necessarily wiser, in his new film While We’re Young.
It’s almost never less than entertaining. And it’s a technically solid piece of work. Baumbach, as a director, feels fully in control of the how the movie looks. As a writer, the characters are often very well drawn and the dialog has a nice rhythmic feel to it, a sort of stylized realism of people from an intellectual background.
At the same time, I’m not sure the movie really comes together as a whole in a fully satisfactory manner. For me, the story itself seemed to flounder at times as it was trying to figure out just what is was supposed to be about.
Overall, my feelings were often those of puzzlement. Is While We’re Young a modern day version of All About Eve that constantly gets off subject, or is it a generation gap morality tale that Baumbach had difficulty finding a strong structure for and sorta, kinda tried to fit it into that of the great film by Joseph L. Mankiewicz? Read the rest of this entry »
Lore, the new German import written by Cate Shortland (who also directed) and Robin Mukherjee, is a movie filled with taut and tense images, one crowding after the other, confrontational, harsh, difficult. There’s very little dialog. The whole story is told in anxious edits and quick juxtapositions, nervous close ups and cropped frames that all feel on edge.
The basic story revolves around Lore, a teenager and daughter of two very important members of the German Nazi party. She and her younger sister and much younger twin brothers, as well as a newborn, lead privileged lives. When Hitler kills himself and her parents are arrested, the care of the family is left to her and she has to take them all the way across Germany to her Aunt’s farm in Olm. When Lore and her siblings are about to be taken in by some American troops for traveling without permission, they are rescued by Lore’s worst nightmare, Thomas, a Jewish man just released from a concentration camp and who claims to be their brother. His papers and his background get them the permission to carry on.
Lore has moments of power and it’s never uninteresting. The acting, by Saskia Rosendahl as Lore and Kai Malini as Thomas, is strong; Thomas especially has haunting eyes that are hard to look away from. Lore’s realization that her father was not just someone in the Nazi party, but a perpetrator of great horrors, is affecting. The things the group has to do to survive are often horrifying and moving.
At the same time, when Lore and the others make their way to their Aunt’s and Lore does something to show the completion of her character arc, the loss of innocence and her coming of age, I found I wasn’t quite as moved as I wanted to be. There are probably several reasons for this. One is a revelation about Thomas that, I think, watered down his part in her journey (I knew he wasn’t quite who he claimed to be; but who he did turn out to be, was a disappointment as far as I was concerned).
In addition, Lore’s journey is two parts. One is her sexual awakening (which never quite got awakened) and her realization of the horrors of what Germany did. These two journeys didn’t always fit well together and each weakened the effectiveness of the other. And finally, what Lore went through was moving; but somehow the realization that the Nazi’s weren’t very nice people isn’t as powerful or unique a journey as it perhaps once was. In the end, there may not be enough new here.
I couldn’t begin to tell you why I really got a kick out of Abbas (Certified Copy) Kiarostami’s new film Like Someone in Love. I’m not sure what the point was. It’s very odd and quirky and kind of off kilter and all of the twelve points of the indie cinema law. But I really enjoyed it.
The movie is basically a series of conversations in which someone won’t take no for an answer. The plot revolves around a prostitute Akiko (played by Rin Takanishi with a perky pout) who doesn’t want to go on her next job. The john is Takashi (Tadashi Okuno, who has a calm look of constant bewilderment on his face), a professor of books on sociology and violence, but once Akiko comes over, he frustratingly tries to put off doing some work for a colleague who has called. The next day, Akiko’s boyfriend (Ryo Kase, with a pair of the most expressive doe eyes since Sylvester Stallone) confronts Akiko because he won’t accept that she wants to be left alone. He doesn’t know she’s a prostitute and when he meets Takashi, he assumes he’s her grandfather. I wouldn’t say hilarity ensures, but awkwardness and quirkiness certainly does.
There’s something about Kiarostami’s approach to telling the story. The opening scene begins with someone talking in a restaurant, but the speaker is not seen. It’s disorienting, but intriguing, as the speaker continues arguing with someone who just won’t leave her alone. Then Akiko is revealed, on her own at a table, while people enter and exit the restaurant and the world goes on around her. This hyper realistic background, a constant leit motif (perhaps most haunting when Akiko has a cabbie twice drive her around a monument where her Aunt is waiting for her) is often mesmerizing. It’s the way the whole movie is shot, constant confrontations played out in front of a naturalist background, that pulls you in and keeps your riveted.
The movie just kind of ends with a shocking act of violence. If this is Kiarostami’s attempt to tie everything together by commenting on the professor’s books or field of study, I’m not sure it achieves its goal. As I said, I’m not sure what it all means and you do leave the theater a bit puzzled. But still, I loved it.
Yossi is a sequel to Yossi & Jagger, the 2002 movie written by Avner Bernheimer and directed by Eytan Fox, about a love affair between two men on the front lines in the Israeli army. It sends with the sudden and tragic death of Jagger in Yossi’s arms, shot by the enemy. Neither was ever able to tell anyone about their relationship.
It’s fourteen years later and Yossi (still played by Ohad Knoller) has not gotten over Jagger’s death. He is now a doctor, but still closeted, haunted, his body not the soldierly trim it once was, and, perhaps worst of all, his grief has left him with a nightmarish sense of fashion. After a few stressful days at work, brought on partially by the mother of Jagger coming into Yossi’s hospital for a check up, Yossi decides to take a vacation. He ends up giving a ride to some soldiers heading to a resort, one of whom, a handsome young thing (Oz Zehavi), becomes more and more interested in Yossi, something that Yossi has a hard time comprehending. But the question then becomes, can someone start over, are there second chances in life, can someone come back from a tragedy and find happiness?
The sequel is written by Itay Segal, but still directed by Fox. It’s a moving and never boring. At the same time, it feels a bit slight, especially after Fox’s last film, the amazingly clever and powerful The Bubble, a modern day adaptation of Romeo and Juliet. And it may feel a bit too much like an older man’s fantasy (Fred Astaire made a few of these films). But there is also something moving in catching up with Yossi and seeing him find new meaning in life.